The History of the Lottery

In the short story “The Lottery,” data taiwan Shirley Jackson portrays a small American village that, despite its protestations and defiance against the lottery, is firmly embedded in tradition. The villagers, like the rest of us, live in a world that is both complicated and morally corrupt, but they seem oblivious to this fact as they continue with their everyday lives.

In this setting, a lottery is not only an illegitimate form of gambling but also a way to reinforce the patriarchal dominance in the local community and the belief that one can never have too much money. The arrangement is reminiscent of the patriarchal structures in other cultures, such as the Indian caste system. In the story, Mr. Summers and Mr. Graves arrange for every family to buy a lottery ticket, but the tickets are blank, except for one marked with a black dot. The ticket is then put into a box, and the winnings are announced to the entire village. The winners are told that they can either receive an annuity payment or a one-time lump sum. Most choose the latter. This amount is usually less than the advertised jackpot, because of income taxes that must be paid by the winner.

While defenders of the lottery argue that it is a tax on the stupid—implying that players don’t understand how unlikely it is to win—Cohen writes that the lottery’s growth coincided with “a decline in financial security for working people” during the nineteen-seventies and eighties. As the gap between rich and poor widened, unemployment and inflation increased, and state budgets stretched thin, balancing them meant increasing taxes or cutting services—both of which were unpopular with voters.

Hence, the lottery grew to fill in the holes in state funding and help to create this new, and largely false, sense of national prosperity, where the average person believed that his or her hard work and good fortune would one day bring them a multimillion-dollar jackpot. In addition, lotteries are a relatively low-cost form of fundraising—a fact that is obscured by the high commissions and prize amounts offered by commercial advertisers.

As the odds of winning the lottery became ever more improbable, people still spent huge sums on it because it fed this narrative that they had nothing else to lose and everything to gain. Lottery advocates dismissed long-standing ethical objections by arguing that since people were going to gamble anyway, government might as well collect the profits and distribute them equitably. This argument may have suited the affluent and middle-class white voters who supported the lottery, but it was not persuasive to Black and Latino residents living at or near poverty. Consequently, state lottery commissions have had to devise ways to keep these communities coming back for more. They do this by promoting the lottery to them with advertisements in neighborhoods where it is most heavily promoted and by ensuring that lottery products are easily accessible, such as by selling scratch-off tickets at check-cashing stores and Dollar Generals.